It has been a sort of pet peeve to see orchestras highly regarded around the world, while concert band is ignored. Is it because of it’s history, diversity, or some unknown reason? Looking at the U.S. alone, many major cities have orchestras that are paid professionally (New York, Philadelphia, Chicago, Seattle, Boston, etc.). However, when trying to think of concert bands who are paid, the only thought that comes to mind are military bands. Why is this? There is plenty of band repertoire that is not march or military oriented. Let’s explore some opinions as to why band is essentially swept under the rug.
As far as I understand, concert band, the way we know it, is a relatively new concept. Orchestras have been around for at least four hundred years. Band on the other hand may have only been around for a little over one hundred years. Orchestras have been around much longer and have seen many evolutions to its composition of instruments, band not so much. The first 20th-century band piece was Gustav Holst’s First Suite for Band. Maybe this is where concert band gets its march reputation.
Band may also be viewed as amateur. After all, it was not long after band music started emerging that it would be introduced into public schools. In the U.S. bands are usually the music program funded first, likely because of its diversity to play not only concert music, but also marching bands. I think it is because marching bands are viewed as being very “American,” but also because they are also often associated with sports, which are highly funded here in the states. Also, many professional orchestras today have band instruments included, so maybe concert bands are viewed as the leftover players who did not make the cut, and are therefore amateurs. This really irritates me though, as there are far more string players per orchestra than winds. There could be fifty violins and three flutes or two clarinets. I understand that there is a balance to orchestra sound, but it is unfair to disregard everyone else and assume they’re amateurs.
Finally, maybe its the diversity of band instruments as well. They have been used in folk music, jazz bands, rock bands, and pretty much any kind of music you can think of. Maybe concert band is to close to symphony orchestra to some listeners and their use in other genres is different. Maybe their diversity in these many genres is why they are regarded as amateur. It is difficult to say.
So concert band may not be as regarded because of its history, its education purposes, its diversity, or maybe it just has not got its footing yet in the professional world. After all, there are professional concert bands out there. Maybe, we just need to wait and see.
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